Big Ten 2012
Boilermakers Optimistic: Can They Live Up to the Hype?
It’s not often that Purdue fans are excited for football. Their enthusiasm is usually reserved for basketball season. For the past decade, they haven’t had much to be enthusiastic about for their football team. But for a change, they enter the season with hope and Hope. Danny Hope took over for the legendary Joe Tiller in 2009 with hopes of continuing the success Tiller had at Purdue for many years. The first 3 years haven’t gone quite as planned, but 2012 brings in a new sense of optimism.
In 3 years, Danny Hope’s Boilermakers have won just 16 games, with 1 bowl trip. There hasn’t been much optimism in West Lafayette since he arrived – until now. There’s a different feeling about the football program around campus. Students are genuinely excited for football for a change. The typically dull atmosphere at Ross Aide Stadium should have an actual big-time College Football feel to it this year. That’s a good thing for Purdue athletics and the development of the Purdue football program. It’s hard to recruit to a program that plays in front of a boring atmosphere. A good season in 2012 will do wonders for this program.
With that said, optimism and expectations are just that – optimism and expectations. They don’t guarantee success. Winning when you’re not expected to is much easier than winning when you are expected to win. Purdue hasn’t faced expectations in many years. Despite the enthusiasm around campus, the Boilermakers still haven’t proven they can win at a high level. Their coach – Danny Hope – also hasn’t proven he can lead a major college team to a major bowl game.
One thing Hope did this past year was bring in a solid recruiting class, by Purdue standards. Their class ranked 4th in the Big-10 and 33rd nationally on Rivals.com. That’s definitely a positive step in the right direction. On top of that, Hope is showing an ability to develop players. His roster isn’t filled with many 4-star recruits and 0 5-star recruits. So to have a roster with as much talent as Purdue has proves Hope and his staff know how to develop players.
Boilermakers Feature a Deep, Talented Backfield
Many teams would be ecstatic to have just 1 quality Big-10 caliber quarterback. Purdue has 3. And, somehow, Danny Hope expects to use all 3 regularly. Caleb TerBush started all 13 games last season, but Robert Marve (Miami transfer) played in 10 games before going down with a major knee injury. Marve is, apparently, healthy and expected to push TerBush for playing time.
TerBush and Marve aren’t the only reliable quarterbacks on the roster. Junior Rob Henry was expected to be Purdue’s #1 quarterback last season before getting injured before the season started. It’s likely that TerBush and Marve – both seniors – will take most of the snaps this year, but Hope has vowed to get Henry into the rotation in some form. Henry is a junior so he’ll most likely enter the 2013 campaign as the starting quarterback.
Experienced quarterback play has been a recipe for success in the Big-10 for many years. Purdue is more experienced at this position than most teams and they’re deeper than anyone. None of the 3 quarterbacks are All-American caliber. But they are reliable and efficient. TerBush threw for 1,905 yards with only 6 interceptions. He doesn’t make a lot of mistakes and is capable of making big plays at times. Marve passed for 633 yards in 109 attempts. He has started games for both Purdue and Miami in his career. He’s a 6th year senior that has suffered quite a few injuries in his career. When healthy, he’s a very reliable quarterback.
The quarterback position isn’t the only spot in the backfield that Purdue is deep. Their running backs are skilled, fast, and steady. They have 3 capable running backs. Akeem Shavers figures to be the starter after rushing for 149 yards in Purdue’s bowl victory. Shavers – a senior – rushed for 519 yards and 6 touchdowns in his junior season. He’s capable of putting up a 1,000 yard rushing season if not for Purdue being so deep at the position. The other 2 running backs that figure to get quite a few carries are Ralph Bolden (senior) and Akeem Hunt (sophomore).
Hunt is the most explosive back out of the bunch. He’s a big play waiting to happen. Hunt rushed for 279 yards last year on just 32 carries. Hope is going to have to find a way to get him on the field. Bolden is another skilled running back for the Boilermakers. He led the team in rushing in 2011 with 674 yards on 148 carries. The running game should be in good hands behind a quality offensive line. Purdue returns 3 starters, plus RT Justin Kitchens, who started the first 4 games in 2011.
Defense Will Be Key to Boilermakers Success
There’s talent on the Purdue offense, but the defense must improve in order for Purdue to win at the level they expect to. Hope’s hopes of a big season received a big boost when DT Kawann Short snubbed the NFL to come back for his senior season. Short is one of the top defensive tackles in the country and will most definitely be a high draft pick next year. He is one of 3 returning starters on a defensive line that figures to improve upon the 174.9 yards per game they gave up on the ground.
For Purdue’s defense to improve, someone other than Short is going to have to step up and get pressure on quarterbacks. The defensive line struggled most of the season at getting off blocks. They were unable to figure out quality offensive line units. Short had 17 tackles for loss and no other defensive lineman had double digits in tackles for loss. Purdue cannot win games if they are unable to get more pressure on quarterbacks and cause a ruckus against the run.
Another area of concern is in the secondary. They replace both safeties. Max Charlot does have experience at strong safety, but he’s not a game changer. The Boilermakers do return both starting cornerbacks, including the steady Ricardo Allen. Allen has started the past 25 games for Purdue and been a solid performer for them. He still has 2 years of eligibility remaining. The other cornerback – Josh Johnson – is physical but often struggles to defend more athletic receivers.
2012 Purdue Football Schedule: Predicting Wins and Losses
Purdue is going to be a fun team to watch. They’re difficult to predict. They are the type of team that could go 9-3 or 6-6. It all hinges on how many of the toss-up games they pull off. By our count, there are 4 toss-up games (Notre Dame, Ohio State, Iowa, Illinois). If Purdue can go 2-2 in those games, an 8 or 9 win season is within reach.
Sept 1 vs Eastern Kentucky - WIN
Sept 8 at Notre Dame - LOSS
Sept 15 vs Eastern Michigan - WIN
Sept 29 vs Marshall - WIN
Oct 6 vs Michigan - LOSS
Oct 13 vs Wisconsin - LOSS
Oct 20 at Ohio State - LOSS
Oct 27 at Minnesota - WIN
Nov 3 vs Penn State - WIN
Nov 10 at Iowa - LOSS
Nov 17 at Illinois - LOSS
Nov 24 vs Indiana - WIN
Overall Record: (6-6)
Conference Record: (3-5)
Games Favored: 7
Games Underdog: 5
Purdue Boilermakers: Final Analysis
Don’t be fooled by our win-loss projections for Purdue. We would not be surprised with a 9-win season. Purdue has enough talent, but that’s a difficult schedule. They’re going to need to have a good run in the toss-up games, which they are capable of doing. Danny Hope has done an excellent job of getting this program in position to win. Now it’s time for his team to prove they can do it. For a change, all eyes will be on West Lafayette in the fall this year.